Seven Democrats are lining up for a chance to square off against incumbent Rep. Peter Roskam for the 6th Congressional District seat, but the candidates first must battle each other.
They'll get that chance Tuesday at Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream, where civics club members and The Coalition for a Better Illinois 6th are hosting the first forum since the filing period for the March 20 primary concluded Monday.
Having all of the Democratic candidates together during an event early in the campaign will allow voters to get an introduction from each of them and begin to form opinions, said Eric Hochstein with the coalition.
"We want to give the candidates the opportunity to show where they differ from each other and why one's positions are stronger or better than another," Hochstein said. "This is important for the Democrats to be able to select their best candidate."
The two-hour forum in the school's auditorium at 990 Kuhn Road in Carol Stream is free and open to the public. A crowd of 800 is expected, and overflow seating with a live video feed will be provided if necessary in a secondary auditorium.
Political activists say interest in which Democrat will win the primary is high within the wide-ranging suburban district, which stretches from Naperville to Tower Lakes and includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.
"There is so much enthusiasm and interest for this primary election because people in the district are telling us they want the strongest possible candidate," Hochstein said. "They want to see who can go out and beat Peter Roskam."
Candidates will get to make their case as they answer questions posed by NBC 5 political reporter Mary Ann Ahern. Participating candidates are the seven who have filed petitions to seek the Democratic nomination:
• Becky Anderson Wilkins, a 59-year-old business owner and Naperville City Council member.
• Sean Casten, a 46-year-old scientist, engineer and clean energy entrepreneur of Downers Grove.
• Carole Cheney, a 56-year-old Naperville resident who has worked as a journalist, lawyer and congressional aide.
• Amanda Howland, a 65-year-old Lake Zurich attorney and College of Lake County trustee.
• Ryan Huffman, a 31-year-old Palatine resident who works as a data analyst and policy expert.
• Kelly Mazeski, a 58-year-old Barrington Hills plan commission member who has worked as a chemist and financial adviser.
• Jennifer Zordani, a 53-year-old regulatory and financial services attorney of Clarendon Hills.
"This is a great group of candidates," Hochstein said. "Every one of them is strong and brings something unique to the field."
Topics to be addressed during Tuesday's forum include health care, taxes, education and the environment.
Hochstein said The Coalition for a Better Illinois 6th likely will host another forum when the March 20 primary draws near.